Books That Frighten Us

UNP staff members are always reading, both within our list and outside of what we publish. This Halloween, we’re remembering books that left us chilled, unnerved, spooked. This month’s staff reading list is composed of books that, whether ghoulish or not, frightened us.


October Staff Reading List




The Southern Reach Trilogy, Book 1

Jeff Vandermeer

“A disturbingly creepy book that I refused to read after dark. (The trilogy becomes less creepy and less effective with every book, so I’d recommend stopping after this title.)” —Bridget Barry



“I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”

Harlan Ellison

“I tend to be frightened more often by short stories than novels and Ellison’s grim sci-fi piece has haunted me for years. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is about helplessness, how random, constant cruelty warps people until they are no longer the person they thought they once were. That heavy, exhausting inescapability sticks with me more than any ghost story or horror yarn out there. The last scene, one of heroism halted by unspeakable, silent anguish makes me nauseous just thinking about.” —Jackson Adams



The Leopard

A Harry Hole Novel

Jo Nesbo

“Any of the Jo Nesbo detective novels about serial killers but The Leopard especially is brutally frightening. The book starts with an absolutely horrible murder; the killer employs an unusual device, which pops up (so to speak!) a few more times throughout the novel…. This series is on the edge for me, almost too gory and terrifying, but he’s such a good writer it’s worth it. I can’t read more than one a year, though!” —Andrea Shahan



The Snowman

A Harry Hole Novel

“I selected this somewhat randomly from the library shelf—I wanted to check out the Harry Hole series, and this was the only book available at the time (before the terrible movie).  What an introduction!  The writing is crisp and eerie, and the villain is methodical, leaving calculated destruction that is the stuff of nightmares.” —Heather Stauffer



No Country for Old Men

Cormac McCarthy

“It’s terrifying to know what’s going to happen to the guy who stumbles upon the money….” —Donna Shear



“Graveyard Shift”

Stephen King

“I read Graveyard Shift, a short story by Stephen King, when I was in elementary school. My Mom was a huge Stephen King fan and an avid reader, so his books were always sitting around the house. When I would run out of my own stuff read, the choices were King or Shakespeare. To this day, I assume every dark basement corner has a mutated queen rat waiting to devour me with its oversized rat mouth.” —Amy Lage



The Vegetarian: A Novel

Han Kang

“Absolutely chilling! This is a story about a woman whose violent, bloody nightmares lead her to give up eating meat. That choice changes the dynamic of her marriage and spirals into unbelievably bizarre efforts by her husband and other family members to control her. I’ll never forget the descent into complete obsession and how isolated the protagonist becomes.” —Anne Aberle



The Street: A Novel

Ann Petry

“This story unfolds in loneliness and heartbreak as home becomes less a thing hoped for and more a presence to be feared. I could feel the walls of the Johnsons’ apartment looming cold and stark around me as I read. Lutie’s anxiety and her son’s fear grew harder and harder for me to shake, even after I’d put the book down. I couldn’t finish.” —Anna Weir

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